Umhlaba 1913-2013

  • Posted: Mar 25, 2013

Commemorating the 1913 Land Act

Omar Badsha, Carrying mud to plaster newly built home, Amouti. c1980 - 1984 © Omar Badsha

At the Iziko South African National Gallery, 26 March to 28 July 2013

The enactment of the Land Act in 1913 was one of the most significant events in South African history, affecting thousands of rural communities and the lives of millions of South Africans. To mark its centenary, the photographic exhibition Umhlaba (from the Nguni languagesmeaning land) will be hosted in Cape Town at the Iziko South African National Gallery. The exhibition is curated by David Goldblatt, Paul Weinberg, Bongi Dhlomo-Mautloaand Pam Warne.

The anniversary of the Land Act provides an unparalleled opportunity to tell stories of the land in ways that have not been told before. Travelling in time from the past to the present day,Umhlaba 1913-2013 exhibits work by more than 30 photographers, and draws on the collections of 12 archives in order to sketch the history of land dispossession and its legacies, seen through the eyes of photographers who have engaged with these issues for over a century. Struggles over land, forced and child labour, removals andlast ditch standsare threads in the visual narrative; while a musical component to the exhibition expresses the deep passion and attachment aroused by land.

The exhibition offers insights into the complexity and contested nature of our landscape, and asks questions about how the land is signified and used, and the multiple meanings it has for those who live on it.“Addressing issues of land reform, distribution and sustainable restitution is a complex discussion. A century after its promulgation, the Land Act has left the nation with a tragic legacy. This exhibition is a platform providing unique perspectives, awareness and insight into a very current, emotional and real issue. Hosting this exhibition demonstrates how Iziko is engaging with issues that have created deep cleavages within our South African context. Grappling with the 1913 land Act in a museum context helps to deconstruct and better understand our collective heritage,” says Rooksana Omar, CEO, Iziko Museums of South Africa.

Umhlaba 1913-2013is held in tandem with a major conference, Land Divided 2013, organised by three Western Cape universities, through the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the University of the Western Cape; the Centre for Law and Society at the University of Cape Town; and the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, along with the Land, Environment and Society in Africa Research Programme at Stellenbosch University.

The realisation of Umhlaba 1913-2013 has only been possible through the generous support of PLAAS, the UCT Research office, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Gillian MacKay Graham and Georgina Hamilton.

Umhlabawill travel to the Wits Art Museum in August 2013.


Iziko Museums of South Africa (Iziko) operates 11 national museums, the Planetarium, the Social History Centre and three collection‑specific libraries in Cape Town.  The museums that make up Iziko have their own history and character, presenting extensive art, social and natural history collections that reflect our diverse African heritage.  Iziko is a public entity and non-profit organisation that brings together these museums under a single governance and leadership structure.  The organisation allows *free access to all individuals on commemorative days, (*excluding the Castle of Good Hope and Planetarium).


  • Human Rights Day: 21 March
  • Freedom Day: 27 April
  • International Museum Day: 18 May
  • Africa Day: 25 May
  • Youth Day: 16 June
  • National Women’s Day: 9 August
  • Heritage Week: 21 -27 September
  • National Aids Awareness Day: 1 December
  • Emancipation Day: 1 December
  • Day of Reconciliation: 16 December
  • Castle of Good Hope and Planetarium, free only on International Museum Day and Heritage Day


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